Moyo wabwino?

Life hasn’t seemed quite so easy lately.

1. It is so hot I cannot think. So hot. If the fan is not pointed directly at me, I am sweating within a few seconds. It is unbearable to imagine trying to do anything that requires energy: going to the market, standing in line at the bank, eating.

2. The power outages have become ridiculous. It used to be out for about two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, but now the outages are much much longer and less predictable. When the power goes out in the middle of the night, I wake up in a pool of sweat (see #1) because the fan goes off. Neither Joachim nor I could work at all between 7 and 1 today because of no power, and I had to turn in a grant application (see #3) early because my laptop was about to run out of juice.

3. I am putting in one more grant application, to try to add a small field experiment in December. Chances are slim, but I’m trying. I hate writing grant proposals. When I did not get this particular grant in the spring, the head of the committee suggested that if I try again, I should somehow argue that my dissertation will help prevent things like what happened in Rwanda. Seriously?

4. The fuel situation is OUT. OF. CONTROL. We currently have a full tank, and 50L of reserve, but things look as if they might actually dry up completely. On top of the fuel, there are now no soft drinks or bottled water in the country because of foreign exchange shortage. I really don’t know what will happen to this place over the next few months.

5. Joachim is leaving on the 10th, and I’m stuck missing him for 6 weeks.

6. Our landlord called us yesterday, pissed that we are moving out a month earlier than we originally thought. He got a little crazy on the phone, and I had to be a lot more confrontational than I like to be. The conversation ended with him telling us to be out by the next morning, and me telling him that he could take me to court if he wants, but that we’re not leaving until Saturday.

7. I need a haircut something awful. Think fuzz.

While this is all pretty annoying, there are good things, too. It’s just so hot it’s hard to notice them. If you are cold right now, please be thankful.

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IKI guys

My research project is employing 7 locals – 5 guys in the field and 2 data entry people. The five guys in the field are amazing, especially the supervisor, Augustine. He’s way over qualified to be working in the field, much less for such a small project, but he did it in some ways as a favor. He’s amazingly good at his job – when things are going wrong, he has trouble sleeping and loses his appetite. I am not sure why, but he cares about the project as much as I do. It makes it so much easier to not be with them in the field all the time, when you have someone so competent and trustworthy.

The rest of the team – Paul (Afume because he really is a chief), Charles, Innocent (Kalulu the clever hare, because he likes to eat them), and Hector (Half-Half, don’t know why but it goes way back) – are also really qualified, as well, and we have a lot of fun.

the team

Here is a short film about the organization I am working with, in which Augu is featured: . It also features several of my Zomba-based friends: Wyson, Hastings, and Denview.

Also, instead of charging me an affiliation fee, IKI is letting me teach a short, intensive course on STATA statistical software next month.

In sum, if you ever find yourself doing research in Malawi, I recommend IKI.

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29 Years

Last year on my birthday I was stuck in Kasungu in the hottest time of the year, and I was not happy. So, this year I was so grateful to have Joachim here to share the day with me.

We planned to go to the lake for the weekend, but Thursday rolled around and we had no petrol and there was none in town (I know, I know, you’ve heard this before). We waited on queue around 9:30pm on Thursday, but as soon as we got in line the fuel finished. We heard it might come to a different station the next day, so we got in line there (we were the 20th car). We left the car all day, because the tanker takes about an hour to offload, so we assumed we could just walk over when/if the tanker arrived. It didn’t. We picked up the car that night, and were told it might come the next day.

So, on Saturday morning, Joachim got up at 5:30am and went and waited in line for 3 hours. And, lo and behold, fuel came. Because of the shortages, there is generally a limit. The signs said the limit was 8,000 MWK, which is around 28 liters. But Joachim slipped him an extra 200 MWK (around $1.25) and he was allowed 48 liters. He came and picked me up, and we were off.

can you decipher this one?

full tank, full tank

2.5 hours later, after a really rough last 20 kms down a “spine jarring” dirt road, we arrived at Cape Maclear, on the southern tip of Lake Malawi.

our thatched cottage, right on the water

did i mention that the chalet was right on the water?

We drank coffee.

And laid in the sun.

I'm reading Anna Karenina on my Kindle

On the morning of my birthday, I woke up to a pile of mipatso (gifts).


Joachim, with the help of a friend named Junior, bought me several pairs of earrings and a really, really cool second hand bag that I am in love with – it’s a really rough, leather bag with a soft map print.

i know you are distracted by the lake, but look at my new bag!

The sunset on my birthday was amazing – just for me, I’m sure.

this picture contains so much typical imagery

For dinner, we went to Froggie’s, a “French” restaurant at the lake. I didn’t see anything French about it, except the French owner – all the food was the same you get everywhere, although definitely of higher quality. They even had something that approximated champagne!



I had an amazing birthday. But part of me hopes that next year I can celebrate my 30th somewhere other than Malawi.

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I’ve been pretty busy lately.

I had planned to go back to Kasungu at the end of the 5th week, but then I looked at a calendar and saw that that would put me in Nkhamenya for my birthday. Um, no.

So, I pushed it up a week, which meant I had to get all the supplies I needed to bring ready on the double-STAT. This essentially boiled down to hand feeding 2000 envelopes by hand into my printer over 3 days (approximately 8 hours). The envelopes are necessary in order to coordinate the trust game in the field as quickly as possible – we use a set of codes, colors, and shapes to make sorting who is paired with whom much easier on the fly.

my set-up

720 down, a zillion more to go...

I only ended up staying in the field last week for 4 days. While my project is hitting all kinds of bizarre road blocks (which I cannot even begin to go into now), they guys know what they are doing and I mostly get in the way.

Over the course of those 4 days, I spent over 22 hours in a car – 15 of those alone. Plus it’s the hot season here and my AC doesn’t work. So that wasn’t very fun. And since I’m always driving (on the left side of the road here, so I sit on the right of the car) my right arm is several shades darker than my left since it gets so much sun.

And I know you are tired of hearing about petrol. And I can assure that I am tired of writing about petrol. But the country has been almost dry for over a week now, and petrol is constantly on my mind. Therefore, petrol will be constantly on this blog.

I had stockpiled a bit of fuel in a jerrycan, but it turned out that since there was a petrol shortage one of the guys staying with the gardener on our property decided to help himself to some to fuel his motorcycle. My temperature is rising now just writing about it – at this point in time in Malawi, stealing someone’s petrol is about the worst thing you can do. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with the theft, but in the short term it meant that I didn’t have enough to get to Kasungu and back.

Once in Kasungu, I spent one day driving 3 hours each way to the nearest border town in Zambia (Lundazi). Well, of course, Malawians had drained the pumps the day before, so we drove all that way (and burned all that fuel) for nothing. The guys ended up finding some petrol in a station a few days after I left, but I wasn’t so lucky. I had to buy on the black market on the way back to Zomba at – hope you are sitting down – around $16/gallon. Ouch.

Then, the lack of petrol almost stranded us in Zomba for my birthday, but thanks to waiting on queue for over 9 hours and my only slightly corrupt husband, we were able to get away for a few days. But that story is for another post.


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Pig Roast

According to our friend Stephen, “if roasting a whole pig for the first time is not a life changing event for you, it will at least come pretty close.”

I’d say Joachim is a changed man.

Wilbur was stuffed with veggies for the vegetarians. Some of them didn't really think this was okay...

so manly

he didn't have quite as much fun as we did

with Aymee, one of the guests of honor (she and Stephen were leaving Malawi)

coming off the fire (Joachim and Stephen)


...and after

If these pictures have only whet your appetite, check out the full line up here:

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Phondwe la Chirombo (Party of the Beast)

Today is the “Party of the Beast”. In other words, Joachim is roasting a 35kg pig on a homemade spit.

I am sure I will have much to report (and lots of pictures) after today, but for now I’ll just leave you with some photos of the preparations. Enjoy!

Unloading the freshly killed beast

In our bathtub, before Joachim spent 1.5 hours scrubbing our little friend

Just the essentials...

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Canadian Thanksgiving

Last week we had a treat. On Monday we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with a couple that has lived in Zomba for 30 years, but still knows how to make food that puts me right back in Alabama (from this far away, Canadians and Americans, even Southern Americans, don’t seem so different from one another).

We ate turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, ham, sweet potato casserole, broccoli casserole (cooked by Joachim), glazed carrots (cooked by me), green beans, cole slaw, rolls, and 6 kinds of pies.

I was excited for days at the prospect of a big Thanksgiving dinner. And I was not disappointed. I wanted to take pictures, but I didn’t even think of it until after I was uncomfortably full and sitting around chatting with friends. So, I have some pictures of that fat happy period, and none of the food – you’ll just have to trust me that it was divine!

Some of the group

Stephen showing how he picked a shirt to match Aymee's dress

Happy and Full

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